A Bookish Experience Revisited -
Or, A Whole Nother Story
by Victoria J. Coe
When I was little, my sister and I had a beautiful hardcover edition of The World of Pooh by A.A. Milne. It had all the original stories of Pooh Bear, Piglet, and the rest of the gang from the Hundred Acre Wood, and of course the esteemed Christopher Robin, who since he was six, knew A Whole Lot. Or at least he knew A Whole Lot More Than Everybody Else, including us.
My sister and I listened to our parents reading those stories every night. We rooted for Pooh and Piglet each time, even though they never caught that Heffalump or found the pesky Woozle.
But on the other hand, Pooh did discover the North Pole. And it was his empty honey pot that saved the day at Eeyore’s birthday party. So clearly, sometimes they did succeed!
My sister and I knew every one of those stories by heart. We’d recite favorite lines to each other. We’d pore over Ernest Shepard’s black and white sketches. We’d study the full-page color illustrations for hours and hours, totally in awe.
To us, they weren’t just stories. Those characters were our friends. They were part of our lives.
Somehow – even though the book technically belonged to both of us – when we grew up I ended up being the one to keep it. Which is really saying something because my sister is famous for holding onto things. And I am – well, let’s just say that I am the total opposite!
So when my own sons were born, I couldn’t wait to dig out The World of Pooh. I was dying to share the same stories that I’d loved as a kid with them.
But when I started reading, a funny thing happened.
It turns out those stories weren’t the same ones I remembered. For starters, there wasn’t any Heffalump in that trap. What Piglet heard was only Pooh trying to get the honey pot off his head!
And the surprises continued. Turns out there wasn’t any Woozle, either! Those tracks in the snow were Pooh’s and Piglet’s as they circled and circled the tree. And that pole Pooh discovered was just an old stick.
Hello, loss of innocence!
Not that it was all bad. Actually, after the initial shock wore off, it was pretty great – genius even. As I reconnected with my old buddies Pooh and Piglet and everyone else, I enjoyed them on a whole new level.
As a young kid, I experienced adventure and possibilities and friendship. And later as a mom, I found myself laughing. And marveling.
Because Milne so cleverly captured the wonder and naiveté of childhood. And he did it with so much heart and humor, and in such a way that parents and kids could enjoy the stories at different levels. In other words, he created the perfect read-aloud.
The World of Pooh made the biggest impact on me of any book, not once but twice! To this day, it’s my hands-down favorite.
Now, as I read aloud I’m totally aware of the different ways kids and adults relate to the same story. I love books that appeal to readers on varying levels.
And as I write for kids, hopefully my own stories are hitting that same sweet spot. Who knows? Maybe someday, someone will grow up and read Fenway and Hattie to a child and go, “Hey, wait a minute! Is this a new book?”
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About the Author
Victoria J. Coe is a voracious reader, writing teacher, and Jack Russell terrier impersonator. Her middle grade novel, FENWAY AND HATTIE, the first book in a planned series, was published by GP Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers in February.
About Fenway and Hattie
Fenway is an excitable and endlessly energetic Jack Russell terrier. He lives in the city with Food Lady, Fetch Man, and—of course—his beloved short human and best-friend-in-the-world, Hattie.
But when his family moves to the suburbs, Fenway faces a world of changes. He’s pretty pleased with the huge Dog Park behind his new home, but he’s not so happy about the Evil Squirrels that taunt him from the trees, the super-slippery Wicked Floor in the Eating Room, and the changes that have come over Hattie lately. Rather than playing with Fenway, she seems more interested in her new short human friend, Angel, and learning to play baseball. His friends in the Dog Park next door say Hattie is outgrowing him, but that can’t be right. And he’s going to prove it!
Learn more about the Growing A Reader series here!